The amazing rise of Vimeo and high definition DIY video

While most sites rely on heavy advertising and popularity-based content curation strategies, Vimeo has chosen a different path. This DIY video site is known for high quality, high definition HD videos and a surprising lack of commercial content and advertising. The rich feature set makes it the darling of word of mouth marketers and has translated into 45 million monthly unique visitors for the site.

Aurora borealis

Aurora borealis using time lapse photography


By Parneet Gosal

2011 is often touted as the year of the overheated startup scene, with echoes of the tech bubble in the late 90s. Yes, disruptive technologies are springing up every day. However, this year has also seen a confluence of existing technologies or solutions finally reaching a critical mass of users. Take Vimeo. Launched in 2004, it is certainly not a newly hatched idea – Facebook was also launched in 2004, Twitter in 2006, the iPhone in 2007 and Groupon towards the very end of 2008. Yet it seems that it really only gained critical recognition in 2010, moving from 14.5 million unique visitors in December 2009 to 45 million monthly uniques now.  It is also ranked at 148 in Alexa traffic rankings, up from 600 this time last year.

There are several reasons why. Since Vimeo allows very limited advertising, it can only hope to compete with YouTube based on feature set, which is rich including a broad array of high definition HD content, steadily increasing upload capability, and a well regarded embedded player within the blogger and videographer communities. It also helps that DIY is a strong category all by itself, Etsy being a case in point. Marry DIY to high definition video and you’re looking at a VC’s dream investment.

That said, users enjoy frequenting Vimeo for entirely different reasons. In an ecosystem where we are constantly bombarded by marketing messages and everyone has an agenda in wanting to get our attention online, Vimeo has a refreshing approach. At a time when journalists and content curators on most sites seems to rely almost exclusively on content popularity, Vimeo uses merit rather than popularity as the barometer for what videos get placed on the front page. As a result you’ll notice that top placed videos often have fewer ‘likes’ than others; the site celebrates individuality in a way very few sites do anymore. Visitors will also notice few ads on a page and no in-player ads – the site relies almost exclusively on word of mouth to draw an audience.

While there are many, many great videos on Vimeo, here is our Top 5 selection for your viewing pleasure. Do you have others you’d care to share?

  1. Breathtaking aurora borealis show, one of the biggest in recent memory, by Terje Sorgjerd
  2. Cities in Minutes, showcasing Shanghai, London and other cities in minutes using time lapse photography, by Joe Nafis and other contributors
  3. 100 Women Naked Charity Calendar to help treat child autism, by Philip Bloom
  4. Give Forward, by Remedy Editorial
  5. Ask fifty people one question – “What is your secret?”, by Frank Warren

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